The ad featured an image of a group of young people dancing in a club, with several of them drinking bottles of VK with their heads tilted back.
The caption of the post stated “Here’s a #TipTuesday for ya … VK is always better with your squad” followed by two “stick-out tongue” emojis.
One complainant believed the image promoted unwise drinking styles and was socially irresponsible. The ASA challenged whether the ad featured people drinking alcohol who appeared under 25 years of age, which would be a breach of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) code.
Global Brands argued that the drink was predominantly drunk by students and that the target age was between 18–25 years. As such, the use of emojis was a reflection of how the adult audience interacted online.
Under the legal drinking age
The company stated that the image was taken in an ID controlled nightclub – only accessible to over 18-year-olds – and were confident that the image did not feature anyone under the legal drinking age.
Global Brands also argued that the bottles visible in the image were all over half full and therefore did not promote excessive drinking.
However, the ASA noted that six people in the image were drinking from bottles with their heads tilted far back, which could be associated with the culture of “downing drinks” – particularly in context of the described “squad” group setting.
While the advertising watchdog did acknowledge that some of the bottles in the image appeared to be half-empty, the person in the forefront of the image appeared to be drinking from an empty bottle.
The ASA said the image suggested that members of the “squad” were at different stages of downing their drinks. It therefore considered that the overall impression of the image was likely to lead people to adopt styles of drinking that were unwise, upholding the original complaint.
Styles of drinking that were unwise
The organisation also acknowledged that while the image was taken in an ID controlled nightclub, this did not guarantee that people under 25 were not featured in it.
The CAP Code required that ads for alcoholic drinks should not show people who were, or appeared to be, under 25 years of age in a significant role.
As a result, the ASA considered that several people appeared to be under 25 and concluded the ad was in breach of the CAP code.
The ASA ruled the ad must not appear again in its current form and told VK to ensure that their ads did not encourage unwise drinking styles – or feature people who looked under 25 years of age playing a significant role.
In response the ruling, a spokeswoman from Global Brands said: “We accept the ASA ruling and will ensure this image is removed from all marketing platforms. We will continue to ensure we adhere and work closely alongside ASA codes.”
Meanwhile, The ASA has banned three advertisements from vodka producer Pure Milk Vodka, for promoting excessive drinking and linking alcohol to sex.